Will Euphoria make it to season three?

Another week, another round of rumours about the most contentious show on TV.

There are few TV shows that fit our drama-obsessed times as perfectly as Euphoria. Its first (and so far, only) two seasons were unashamedly brazen and lascivious, depicting teen drug use and morally dubious sex in a way that would make even the original Gossip Girl, which featured an attempted rape in its first episode, blush. And it launched the careers of some of young Hollywood’s biggest stars, earning Zendaya two outstanding lead actress Emmys in the process.

Which means, naturally, that it’s also spawned a ferocious behind-the-scenes rumour mill. Even though the show has been off the air for over two years now, it’s never out of the headlines for long, courtesy of all the drama surrounding its cast and its crew in the interim – perfect fodder for a generation that gets its news from sketchy gossip social media accounts like PopCrave and Deuxmoi. The latest whispers circling the internet’s drain? Whether or not we’ll be lucky enough to see a third season of Euphoria hit our small-screens at all.

But there’s a fine line between the kind of drama that boosts a property (see: Don’t Worry Darling) and the kind that threatens to tank it (see: The Flash). The show’s biggest reputational issue has always been its creator Sam Levinson. The director, showrunner and screenwriter is dogged by his image as something of a sleaze, who often gratuitously writes scenes that feature female actors naked or in compromised positions.

For those already inclined to hate on Levinson’s work, The Idol served as proof of his seemingly unsavoury character”

A quick recap, for the uninitiated: Sydney Sweeney, who plays Cassie, and Minka Kelly, who guest-starred in season two, have both said that they felt uncomfortable with moments of nudity they were supposed to shoot on set, resulting in Levinson rewriting their scenes. Martha Kelly, who plays a drug dealer named Laurie, took umbrage with a scene in which she was supposed to strip Zendaya’s character, Rue, and shoot her up with morphine, saying it had a gross paedophilia vibe.” Chloe Cherry, another actor on the show, has also said that a scene in which she was supposed to be naked could have been more comfortable”, had she been afforded the opportunity to spend more time with her co-stars beforehand.

It’s worth noting, however, that Euphoria has always employed intimacy coordinators who have instigated the changing or reframing of certain scenes, and that Sweeney herself has hit back at the suggestion that she felt unsafe on set. (Martha Kelly’s gripe, on the other hand, seems to reveal a misunderstanding of her character, a predatory drug dealer.) The dynamic on display here – of a set on which actors are, apparently, listened to when they express discomfort, and supported by trained professionals – seems to have been lost on many of the show’s fans. And given the nature of online fandom, attempting to change their minds is an uphill battle. To them, Levinson has already cemented his notoriety as a lecherous creep.

Of course, there are plenty of justified critiques of Levinson floating around, too. The Idol, his follow-up to Euphoria starring The Weeknd and Lily-Rose Depp, was accused of depicting torture porn,” with many critics deriding what they deemed a sexually exploitative style and plot. It didn’t help that the show’s original direction was overhauled by Levinson and HBO, taking over from acclaimed indie filmmaker Amy Seimetz. (Depp, who appears partially-nude or scantily-clad in nearly every scene, described Levinson as the best director I have ever worked with.”) The Idol was widely viewed but met with a collective groan online, as many decried the show’s overindulgent and ethically questionable tone. For those already inclined to hate on Levinson’s work, the show served as proof of his seemingly unsavoury character.

The basis of those hits against Levinson are all, to some degree, based on personal taste and interpretation (and, perhaps, a little bit of pearl-clutching). But this torrent of bad press has, understandably, put his reputation as a showrunner and director in total shambles. This isn’t necessarily enough to have him blacklisted from Hollywood, though – much to the chagrin, I’m sure, of many Euphoria fans.

But the show’s troubles don’t end with Levinson. The 2023 writers’ and actors’ strikes, which halted all production in the US until their respective resolutions, have likely pushed season three, originally meant to premiere in 2024, back by a number of months, if not more than a year. Earlier this month, Colman Domingo – who plays Ali, Rue’s sponsor on the show – told GQ that Euphoria season three was taking even longer than expected because Levinson himself is struggling with how to position the show in relation to today’s climate. I think he’s wrestling with what’s important,” he said. He’s responding immediately to what the ills of the world are… He’s very much interested in the existential question of who we are right now. Our souls.”

Meanwhile, in the break between seasons, Zendaya, Sweeney and Jacob Elordi, who are now all in their mid-to-late twenties, have become huge stars thanks to appearances in hits such as Dune, Anyone But You and Saltburn. It’s hard to imagine they have any great desire, or availability, to return to a TV show that carries such a rancid metatextual air. On the flip side, Euphorias success hasn’t been kind to all of its actors: Nika King, who plays Rue’s mum and is one of the show’s greatest attributes, mentioned during a stand-up gig that she hasn’t booked a single acting job since the second season aired.

Even if its younger stars are contractually obligated to return, another huge challenge facing series three is the fact that two of the show’s most beloved characters, Kat (Barbie Ferreira) and Fez (Angus Cloud) won’t be returning. While there has long been talk of Ferreira exiting the show due to supposed disagreements with Levinson (which she herself has denied), Cloud tragically died last year of an accidental overdose, following Euphoria’s second series in which his character was foregrounded. The absence of Fez, an undeniable fan-favourite, will likely be hard to compensate for, and the circumstances of Cloud’s death add a particularly bitter note to a show that’s fundamentally about drug abuse.

Altogether, it’s enough to tank any show. In the past year alone, public opinion towards Euphoria has soured so much that even its die-hard fans may be questioning the show’s impact and legacy come season three. Which is kind of a shame. Almost every single performance in the show remains remarkable, even when the script or story didn’t quite work, vastly improving upon the (admittedly low) standard set by past teen shows like Skins and Gossip Girl. Its aesthetic – which seems to draw on New Hollywood and the hyper-stylised aesthetic of 2000s music videos – was hugely influential, and is far more ambitious and exciting than most recent TV fare.

But how much of the online gossip around Euphoria will actually translate offline? The show has been pilloried by a number of vocal online fans, but it’s hard to overstate how huge of a hit Euphoria is. It’s likely that many people who enjoy the show don’t even know who Sam Levinson is and instead associate the show with the likes of Zendaya and Sydney Sweeney. And there’s something to be said for the fact that many of Levinson’s haters are still totally in his thrall: even those hate-watching The Idol were still, at the end of the day, watching The Idol. The same will probably be true of Euphoria season three – if it ever gets off the ground.

Amidst all the drama and delays, it’s easier to see the show ending altogether than eventually spawning a poorly received third season. If the show is done, Euphorias greatest cultural legacy may be all the internet ephemera it left in its wake: gossip items about toxic sets and infighting, bleeding-heart TikToks about its treatment of fictional characters, allegations of theft and misogyny and artistic genius. In other words, it’ll still stand as a perfect document of meta, gossip-driven 2020s culture – in all its weird, horrifying splendour.

More like this

The best of THE FACE. Straight to your inbox. 

00:00 / 00:00